What Allan Atwell, 95, of Clifton Park, expected to be an ordinary Sunday turned into much more as the Battle of the Bulge U.S. Army veteran was surprised by a lengthy, drive-by parade at his home on Greenlea Drive.
The veteran remains active in a variety of civic and community organizations and many were part of Sunday’s honorary parade.
“I was surprised that my eldest son and his wife appeared right out of the clear blue,” Atwell said from his driveway Sunday afternoon. “Then they got me out the front door. They suggested I sit down, and I look to my left and saw this procession ready to start. This was a complete surprise.”
Members of the Jonesville Volunteer Fire Department, Clifton Park Emergency Services Corps along with members of the VFW and Clifton Park Elks were part of the more than mile-long procession.
“I could have shaved this morning, but it was just another day,” Atwell said.
The U.S. Army private first class (ret.) received a Certificate of Merit from state Sen. Jim Tedisco (R-Glenville) and a proclamation from Town of Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett on his 95th birthday.
Several of Atwell’s children were in attendance, including Barbara, Alane, Jerrold and Jon.
Atwell served in the 28th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army and is one of less than 1,500 remaining living veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. More than a million allied soldiers fought from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945, including 500,000 Americans.
According to the Department of Defense, 19,000 Americans were killed in action, 47,000 wounded and 23,000 were listed as missing.
“I was a month into 19 [years-old] when I waded ashore on Omaha Beach of ’44 on Labor Day, a couple months after D-Day, but there was still a lot of debris in the water and on the beaches,” Atwell said. “I went over as a replacement.“
“I went up through replacement depots and was assigned to Company B of the 109th as a replacement. I was a private and later I became a private 1st class.
I only had myself to look after and I did as I was told. Obviously, survived.”
The battle still left its mark on the young man.
“They had the worst winter in decades and in the fall of ’44 I was in the Hurtgen Forest when the temperatures went down to zero or below for a couple of weeks,” Atwell said. “Living outside I got frostbite so bad that I couldn’t walk.”
He was transported to a hospital in Spa, Belgium, to recover.
“They put me on a table and took a pin to stick in my toes to show that I didn’t have any feeling,” Atwell said. “Each morning the doctor would walk by and if they turned black, they would cut them off.
“I survived, but even now it is difficult to get my feet warm in the wintertime and in the summertime, they prickle and burn. I still have my feet, but they aren’t what they used to be.”
Atwell retired from the New York Telephone Company in 1985 before starting his own company, Double A Pre-Wiring until 2008.
Looking back on his life and changes, it is the telephone that makes the greatest change.
“I did not have a phone growing up, but my wife did, 3- or 4-miles out and she has 27 [residences] on her party line,” Atwell said. “I think now when I cranked the phone then and my great grandchildren that were here today, what their life will bring them.”